Saturday, 20 October 2018


One of my daughters-in-law loves to buy potted plants at the nursery, and brings them home with good intentions of making a herb garden, but then forgets to water them. Last year she bought a mint plant in a tiny pot. It sat outside for a long time just looking sadder and sadder until I decided to take pity on the poor thing and bring it home.

And now look at it! It's taking over the world. Mmmmm.... love the minty aroma!

Saturday, 13 October 2018

AAP at Newmarket Theatre

The AAP Collective art group has been busy in the entrance lobby of the local Newmarket Theatre..... that's the town of Newmarket in Ontario, Canada, not the well known horse racing centre of Newmarket in England, although I think there are other Newmarket's all over the world. Is there a Newmarket near you?
And what or who is the AAP Collective? It's a group of ten artists, some are experienced professionals, and others, like me, are complete amateurs, who meet once a week to experiment and create art using all sorts of techniques and learning from each other.
AAP? It can stand for many things..... Another Art Project; Artists Are People; but most of all... Art Ain't Pretty.
The art will be displayed in the theatre lobby until January, which gives us lots of public exposure, but I'm not sure that people go to an evening at the theatre expecting to buy a piece of original art.

Here we are hanging the pictures in the lobby. Everyone has an opinion regarding the arrangement and what should hang next to what, but eventually we left it for just two people to make the decisions and stood around to observe. And of course, to make the odd encouraging comment.....
That one's not straight!
The one on the left is too high!
The one on the right is too low!

And no art exhibition can be complete without a group picture of the artists!

Saturday, 6 October 2018

What a Whopper!

One of the most hotly contested rivalries at Markham Fair is the 'biggest pumpkin' competition. This year the heaviest pumpkin was won with a giant weighing 193 pounds. That's it on the left in the photo, the green one with the blue ribbon
The heaviest squash, the huge yellowish white one with the red First Prize ribbon, weighed in at a whopping 637 pounds. That's 289 kg for those who prefer metric.

The grower, Carl Niemeyer, said he bought the pumpkin seeds on line from the provincial winner of the largest pumpkin in Manitoba. 
Growing the pumpkin was easy, but transporting it to the Fair presented a challenge. Twelve people lifted it onto a skid before loading it onto his pickup truck for delivery to the Fair.
The secret to growing a giant pumpkin? He put lots of chicken manure down in the spring, and as the vine grew, he pruned off all the smaller pumpkins so the granddaddy of them all could receive all the nutrition.
If you're interested, the giant pumpkin is for sale at a local farmer's market for $200.00.... that's Canadian dollars of course.  Pumpkin pie, anyone?

Lots more giant vegetables on show too. These are Savoy cabbage. My favourite. I wish I had taken a pic of the largest potato weighing over 3 pounds. You could make a lot of french fries with that!

I'm not doing very well with my resolution to blog every day in October, and we're only 6 days into the month. Oooops.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Garden Goodies

It's harvest season, and the gardens are starting to produce gorgeous veggies. There's always fierce competition between the local gardeners and farmers for the biggest, the best, the craziest, the most colourful, when it comes to vegetables and farm produce shown at the Fair.

 I love the colours and shapes of all these varieties of squash and pumpkin.

This is known as Indian Corn, but also named Flint Corn as the kernels are very hard. Often used as a decoration in the autumn. And I think it can be used as popcorn too.

Tuesday, 2 October 2018

October Resolution

I haven't been a very diligent blogger recently. I seem to have lost my blogging inspiration, and sadly, I find that quite a few of the usual bloggers that I like to read are missing too. So as it's a nice new month, I'm going to try to blog something every day, or perhaps it might be every other day if I run out of brain power, which is quite likely.
"Oh Yeah???? I'll believe it when I see it!"  I can hear you saying. Well, I may not succeed, but I'm going to try.
Yesterday's pictures featured the beautiful chickens at Markham Fair.
Today I'm showing you some of the prizewinning baking at the Fair. Scrumptious!

When OlderSon was little, he always entered an exhibit in the category "Chocolate Cake, Boys Only" and actually won the first prize red ribbon a couple of times. I don't think he makes chocolate cake any more now, but he is really accomplished at pumpkin pie!

Monday, 1 October 2018


It's Fall Fair time here in Southern Ontario, and I always have to go to nearby Markham Fair. It's a tradition with me, even if the rest of the family don't go with me. The Fair is much the same every year, but I still have to go and see if anything is new.
One of my favourite buildings is the poultry and rabbit building, where I can admire these gorgeous creatures.

Yes, I like the chickens a lot. Lovely colours and shapes and textures and very noisy! My Dad kept chickens when I was a child, and I was put in charge of the new baby chicks that arrived in a big box every spring..... like these.
The chicks soon grew up, and gave us fresh eggs every day, and then when their egg laying days were done, they became Sunday dinner.

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Newtonmore, Scotland

We stayed three nights in the delightful small town of Newtonmore in the Highlands. In the centre of the town, there's a small lake.... called a loch in Scotland. Loch Imrich. The loch is a kettle-hole formed by glacial action during one of the ice ages. For many winters the pond was used for the sport of curling, but now there's curling rink in the village.
We walked the trail around the edge of the loch.... a lovely place to spend a quiet hour.

Digitalis purpurea. Foxgloves can be either purple of white. The flowers are always growing on one side of the stem on the wild plant. If the flowers surround the stem, then that is a garden variety.

The leaves and flowers of foxglove contain the spiro-steroid, Digoxigenin, used in biochemistry and immunohistological diagnosis. The compounds digitoxin and digoxin are used to make the drug digitalis, used as a heart stimulant. When I was little, I put the flowers on my fingers, but the flowers were traditionally known as poisonous, and Mum made sure I always washed my hands thoroughly afterwards.

Iris pseudacorus, or otherwise known as Yellow Iris or Yellow Flag. Lots of them growing along the edges of the loch.

I think this is Caltha palustris, Marsh marigold, also known as Kingcup. This plant contains a toxin that the old time herbalists used to remove warts. I'm not sure about this identification.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral is known as "The Lantern of the North" and is one of Scotland's most ambitious and beautiful medieval buildings.
Begun in 1224, Elgin was the principal church of the bishops of Moray. The cathedral was damaged by fire in 1390, following an attack by Robert III's brother Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, who was also known as "The Wolf of Badenoch".
The cathedral lost its roof shortly after the Protestant Reformation of 1560, and later its central tower fell. 
But the cathedral’s fortunes began to change when it became a visitor attraction in the early 1800s. There are guided tours around the ruins but I just wandered around enjoying the atmosphere.

Wandering in a graveyard may sound gruesome, but I loved seeing all the old grave markers and trying to imagine the lives of the people who lived in this community and came to this cathedral to worship. The tombstones tell so many stories.

 This saucy little fellow was found hiding behind a wall when some restoration was going on. Make sure you read the explanation in the next photo. And before you ask.... yes, I looked, of course I did, and yes.... anatomically correct!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Images of Scotland

Of course, any trip to Scotland always involves the sounds of a true Scot playing the bagpipes. This piper was busking on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
 The Royal Mile is the main tourist destination in Edinburgh so of course, there are all sorts of shops selling Scottish "stuff". Woolly hats and scarves, Scottish flags, whisky flavoured chocolate, fluffy toy lambs and highland cattle. Lots of these whisky shops, with many different single malt Scotch products for sale. I'm not much of a drinker, and I don't think I have tasted Scotch at any time during the last 30 years.... however visiting Scotland meant that I had to try a sample (or two!), and you know what? The stuff's not as bad as I thought it was going to be!

Scotch doesn't simply come in bottles.... here's a glass stag full of the stuff. You can take this home for 300 pounds. Good luck carrying it on the plane though.
And here's the real thing. The Monarch of the Glen by Sir Edward Landseer, painted around 1851 and currently on display at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Magnificent!
The Monarch of the Glen is one of the most famous British pictures of the nineteenth century; for many people it encapsulates the grandeur and majesty of Scotland’s highlands and wildlife. Here Landseer depicts a monumental and precisely defined ‘royal’ or twelve point stag – a reference to the number of points on its antlers. Many of his paintings show interactions between humans and animals, but in this, his most well-known work, a single emblematic creature is viewed in a moment of exhilaration. It became widely admired in nineteenth century, when it was reproduced in prints, and achieved even greater renown in the twentieth century when it was employed as a marketing image for various products, so endowing it with global recognition.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

The Kelpies

According to ancient Scottish legends kelpies are shape-shifting water spirits who inhabit the lochs and waterways of Scotland and appear most often as a horse, although they can appear in human form too, but can be recognised by water weeds in their hair.

A common theme in the Kelpie stories is of several children clambering onto the creature's back while one child remains on the shore. Usually a little boy, he then pets the horse but his hand sticks to its neck. In some variations the lad cuts off his fingers or hand to free himself; he survives but the other children are carried off by the kelpie and drowned, with only some of their entrails being found later. Gory!

These Kelpies are better behaved than that.

These Kelpie statues stand 30m tall (around 100 feet) and weigh over 600 tonnes.  Designed by Scottish sculptor Andy Scott and completed in October 2013, the Kelpies stand in the Helix Park in Falkirk. They pay tribute to the working horses of Central Scotland.

Each Kelpie contains 3,000m of steel tubing and 17,000 components, and the whole sculpture cost around 5 million pounds to build.

And I wonder what the Kelpies would look like under the surface......
One of the most astonishing sculptures I have ever seen. 

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Forth Bridge

On the way out of Edinburgh we stopped for a photo op at the Forth Rail Bridge.

The Forth Bridge is a steel cantilever railway bridge spanning almost 2.5 kilometers. Construction started in 1882 and it was opened by the Duke of Rothesay (later to be crowned King Edward VII) in 1890.
Before the opening of the bridge, the rail journey from London to Aberdeen took about 13-1/2 hours. Once the bridge was in place, the journey was reduced to around 10 hours.
When I was at school I was taught that once the bridge was painted from one end to the other, it was time to start painting it again. "Painting the Forth Bridge" is a colloquial expression for a never-ending task, but in 2011, the bridge was covered in a new coating designed to last for 25 years. Paint crew no longer needed!
As a child I couldn't understand why the bridge was called the "FOURTH Bridge" when there were only three sections..... of course it wasn't "FOURTH", it was "FORTH".... as it crossed the Firth of Forth.

Thursday, 16 August 2018

Waverley Station

This pic borrowed from Waverley Station web site.

Gosh, Waverley Station is huge! I traveled to Scotland by train, which was a wonderful journey, and when I arrived in Edinburgh, I couldn't find my way out of the station.

Waverley Station opened in 1846 and was rebuilt between 1892 and 1902. It lies in the valley between the old town and modern Edinburgh, adjacent to Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens.
There's a huge shopping mall at the station Thank goodness for the covered escalators to get from the station level to Princes Street, it's a huge hill, I would hate to try and carry luggage up all the steps.
Here's a video of the Sation:
... and if you need to go to the Ladies Loo, it costs 30p, and you better have the right change.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Deacon Brodie

Deacon Brodie's Pub is a popular watering hole on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
But who was Deacon Brodie?
This story is unashamedly borrowed from a BBC article about him.

On 1 October 1788 William Brodie was hanged for theft in the Lawnmarket, Edinburgh, in front of a crowd that was the largest seen in living memory. He strode out to the gallows in fine clothes and a powdered wig. He was 47 when he was hanged and until his arrest had managed to maintain the illusion of being a respectable craftsman.

The prestigious title of deacon did not refer to religion, as many assume, but instead to his presidency of one of Edinburgh's trades guilds. His trade was a cabinet-maker and his position as deacon of the Incorporation of Wrights made him a member of the town council.

pubPossibly Brodie's double life was the inspiration for Edinburgh author Robert Louis Stevenson's infamous character Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which was published a century later.

Both Brodie's grandfathers were renowned Edinburgh lawyers and his father was a successful businessman. Brodie himself was a fine craftsman specialising in domestic furniture such a cupboards and cabinets. He was also a talented locksmith. Through his work he had access to the houses of very rich people and was able to make impressions of keys which meant he could come back at night and rob them. His criminal career began in 1768 when he copied keys to a bank door and stole £800, enough to maintain a household for several years. But it was not until more than a decade later that Brodie's crime spree got going properly.

Brodie's father died of palsy in 1782 and left him £10,000 in cash alone, a fortune in those days, plus at least four houses and the business. Brodie had been a member of The Cape, the most exclusive club in Edinburgh, but over time his interests turned to a disreputable tavern in Fleshmarket Close, which was notorious for late-night drinking and gambling with cards and dice. He was also keen on betting on cock fighting. In addition to his gambling, he was also supporting two mistresses (who didn't know each other!) and five children. He ran up debts during the night but his daytime business was thriving

In the summer of 1786 Brodie met an Englishman, George Smith, a locksmith who ran a grocers shop in the Cowgate. The pair soon became extremely busy targeting businesses and private homes in the Old Town. Towards the end of 1786 Brodie and Smith robbed a goldsmith's and a tobacconist's. On Christmas Eve they made off with a major haul from Bruce Brothers, including watches, rings and lockets. Before long they got involved with two more criminals, John Brown, a thief on the run from a seven year sentence of transportation, and Andrew Ainslie, a shoemaker.

By the summer of 1787 they had ventured further afield to Leith where they stole tea, a valuable commodity at the time, from a grocer's shop. Shortly after this they stole the ceremonial mace from the University of Edinburgh.

The Excise Office in Edinburgh was in Chessel's Court at the bottom of the Royal Mile. For this job, possibly for the first time, the gang were armed with pistols and, also unusually for them, they broke in. They were disturbed and fled with just £16. It was a disaster and it led to the gang falling out

John Brown was tempted by the reward of £150 being offered for information about a previous robbery and went to the sheriff's clerk to name Ainslie and Smith as the culprits. When they were arrested Brodie feared the game was up and prepared to disappear. He took the stagecoach to London and then a ship to Holland. But the reward for Brodie's capture led to him being tracked down and discovered as he hid in a cupboard in an inn. He was returned to Edinburgh where he stood trial with Smith. His trial lasted just 21 hours. He was hanged in front of a crowd of 40,000.

According to a legend, Brodie wore a steel collar and silver tube in his throat to prevent the hanging from being fatal. It was said that he had bribed the hangman to ignore it and arranged for his body to be removed quickly in the hope that he could later be revived. If so, the plan failed. Brodie was buried in an unmarked grave at the Buccleuch Church in Chapel Street. The ground is now covered by a car park behind university lecture halls. However, rumours of his being seen in Paris circulated later and gave the story of his scheme to evade death further publicity.